Saturday, August 5, 2017

BlytheCon Brooklyn Skirt Directions

BlytheCon Brooklyn Skirt Instructions

Swatch of fabric, 4” by 7”
3 ½ “ piece of 1/8 “ wide elastic
1” piece of 1/8” wide leather
Small buckle or button

I am making the donation skirts out of the BCBk plaid.  If you are attending, then you don’t need to make one out of that.  But if you are not, and you want an exact replica, then fabric is available here.    I got the Plaid Small in Basic Cotton Ultra.  And a swatch is enough for this skirt!  But I think that this skirt will be cute in lots of different designs, so get creative!

The leather is widely available at craft stores like Michael’s, look in the leather and beading sections.  It is the flat 1/8 inch wide leather strapping.

If you want to wait for the slow boat from China, the buckles are available most affordably on eBay and Mimiwoo.  
But they are also available from a US seller  However, I think that there is room for creativity on this.  You could use a ribbon and a button or two.  Or you could do an embroidery chain stitch.  Even just put a pretty mini applique there.

All garments benefit from good pressing, but pressing is particularly important in this pattern.  So get out that trusty iron!

  1. Preliminary Pressing
The pattern is really just a rectangle and you don’t need to mark anything.  Before you sew press under ½ inch on both long edges.  

Next: press in the pleats.  

There are 2 pleats.  The first one is 2 ⅞” from the left side.  Fold and press here.

The pleats are ⅜” deep, so my next press looks like this.

There is ¼” between the pleats.  So I measure out ¼” from the last pleat edge, then fold under and press.  

Then I fold under the final pleat with a depth of ⅜” again and do the final press.

  1. Make the Waistband Elastic Casing
This can be a bit confusing, so I’ll try to break it down step by step.  At this point you can’t just fold under the casing.  One, because the pleats are in the way, and two, because the elastic would not fit through.  

So this is your pressed piece ready to go.

To make the casing, you need to open out the top folds and get the top flat, so that when you fold it under you can insert the elastic. First, adjust and pin your pleats in place on the front to keep the bottom edge tidy.

Now, flip it over and looking at it from the back side, it looks like this:

Fold open the top edge, while keeping the pleats in place.

When you fold it up, the creases from the pressing are going in a different direction at the top, which makes the fabric flower out.  So I just finger press them to match the rest of the crease.  Now it lies flatter.

Now keeping the pleats in place, fold the top edge down not quite half way and pin in place.

Then fold again on the original press line.

And re-pin in place.

Stitch close to that edge. This is your casing for the elastic.

  1. Insert Elastic
I have a special tool that I use for inserting elastic in narrow casings.  You can get it on Amazon.  It’s also Available at JoAnn.  But you can use a bodkin or a safety pin, if you like.

Insert it in this direction so that the elastic doesn’t get caught in the folds.  Attach your elastic to the end and pull it though.  

It’s a little bit fussy, so have patience.  It helps to put a pin through the end of the elastic to keep it from being pulled all the way into the casing.  Now pin the ends.
IMG_9410 (1).jpg

And stitch ⅛” from the edge to secure.

You are almost done!

  1. Back Seam and Hemming (You have a choice here.)

1) You can run a hem along the bottom right now while the back seam is open.  That is easier.  Fold out the pressed edge straightening out the pleats, and fold under about halfway, then stitch close to the edge.  Now, right sides together, and minding your pattern if you are matching plaids, pin and stitch the back seam from waistband to hem.  Done!


2) The version described above will put a seam in your hem and lots of people do this. But I like the finished look of enclosing the seam in the hem.  So I fold the skirt right sides together and stitch from waist to hem.

Now fold out the hem straightening out the pleats, fold under about halfway, and stitch close to that edge.  It’s rather fussy work.  You can see that the skirt rotates around my foot as I sew.

See how pretty it looks this way?

  1. Final Press
Press the elastic open at the waist.  
IMG_9518 (1).jpg

Now from the bottom, press the seam flat.  
IMG_9516 (1).jpg

Now repress your pleats in place since you had to open them out for the hem.

  1. Embellish
Take your 1” piece of leather and shape the ends.  Position your buckle on one end.  You can make a groove in the leather for the center of the buckle to make it lie more flat.  Sew it across the pleats about ⅝” down from the top of the waistband.

Done! Let’s see your skirts!  Post photos!

Friday, July 14, 2017

BlytheCon Brooklyn Donation Skirt: News, Pattern and Instructions

Donation skirt promo photo on my theme doll (tan dolls) by Chinalilly.
Art by Romina Galotta
I am so excited about BlytheCon in Brooklyn!  While perusing the BCBk FaceBook group, I saw that another lovely lady is making shirts, so I decided that a skirt would give everyone a complete outfit in their goodie bags.  I came up with the pattern based on the super cute BC exclusive plaid available on Spoonflower.  There are a lot of super cool options this year!

Skirts in progress!  This is not even half of my donation!

This is by far the biggest BlytheCon donation that I have ever undertaken.  I am so happy to have the enthusiastic support and sewing assistance from Jen Furman.  And Christine Kennison was so kind to provide financial support.  This help from my friends really made the project feasible.

Here's the skirt in a soft, vintage floral.  
I paired it with an angora, cream, fitted sweater.  
The pattern for the sweater is available in my shop.  

I think these skirts are super cute!  They will go with lots of tops and can work in a mix and match wardrobe.  I am providing the pattern, so that everyone can have some fun leading up to the convention.  And those who may not be able to attend can make a skirt for themselves. So let's get creative!

My Kenner wears her skirt out of the BlytheCon Seattle 
exclusive print by Dr. Blythenstein, available here.

Here's my pattern.  It's a pdf, and there is a guide on it to check for scale.  You should print it without scaling.

And here are my instructions.  It's another separate pdf.  You can download and read along or print them out, whatever works for you.

Here the skirt is paired with a sailor top and hat.  
The hat pattern is available on my blog.  Bear by Cindy Sowers.
NOTE:  I am providing this pattern to you to for personal use or to make items to sell.  And you can share the pattern far and wide.  I will keep it up here, as well.

Edit: Since a lot of people seem to be having trouble accessing the directions, I am going to put them all in another post.  Coming right up next.

I'm excited to see everyone's projects!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Quick & Light: Shrimp and Asparagus Stir-Fry

This is the perfect quick and light meal for those hot summer nights!  (It is available to print here.)

Shrimp and Asparagus Stir-Fry

2 tablespoons coconut oil
½ onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 bundle asparagus, chopped in large pieces
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons lemon juice
⅔ cup chicken broth

Heat oil in pan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute 1 to 2 minutes to soften. Add
garlic, ginger and asparagus and cook for scant 2 minutes just until the asparagus begins to
brighten. Add the shrimp and sprinkle the lemon juice over it. Cook about 2 minutes. Stir and
cook another 2 minutes. Add the broth and cook until done, 2 to 4 minutes. Be careful not to
overcook the shrimp! Serve over coconut rice.

In the pot


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Easiest & Yummiest Summer Dessert: Key Lime Pie!

Key Lime Pie...  so refreshing and sinful.  Everyone is always impressed and it couldn't be easier.

As you can see, I use bottled lime juice.  Be sure to get the good stuff!

Key Lime Pie


1 (9 inch) prepared graham cracker crust
2 (14 oz) cans sweetened condensed milk
½ cup sour cream
¾ cup key lime juice
Grated lime zest

I like to mix with my stand mixer.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, combine the condensed milk, sour cream, and lime juice.  Mix well.  If you like it extra tart you can add some grated lime rind in the mix, too, but it is really not necessary.  Pour into graham cracker crust.  Grate some lime rind on top for decoration and flavor, if desired.

Bake in preheated oven for 5 to 8 minutes, until tiny bubbles burst on the surface of the pie.  Do not let the pie brown at all!  Chill thoroughly.  Serve with whipped cream.
Here's your pie right out of the oven.  Be sure to chill it for a couple hours before serving!


Thursday, June 15, 2017

How to felt a hat for Blythe

The steps are the same for felting any project, whether it is a hat for Blythe or a bag for your computer.  What you will need is: your project knitted and ready to felt, a basin to felt in with very hot water and a tea kettle nearby for more hot water, an ice bath, a small amount of laundry soap, and a large pair of housework gloves.

My supplies

Large, heavy weight gloves
The first step is to knit a hat.  There are several free patterns available online.  Here are a few:

It is important that you use a fiber that will felt.  Typically, this means wool but any natural hair based fiber will felt so that means alpaca and angora too.  Please make sure that the wool is not treated to be washable.

“Most animal fibers that are not treated to be machine washable will felt. Although wool, mohair and alpaca will all felt, the end results will be different in each. When wool felts it becomes thick and durable, alpaca retains some of it’s softness and does not get as stiff as wool, and mohair tends to be very fuzzy.
The process that the fibers go through to become felted, is the same for all of these fibers. By applying heat and agitation, the scales that make up each tiny strand in the yarn open up and catch upon one another. The more that these fibers rub up against each other, the more tangled they become. Once cooled and dried, the fibers are forever locked together to form a matted form of wool known as felt.”-- from

A cat ear hat with chin strap, and 2 roll up sun hats
Here are a few examples of projects ready to be felted.  They are hilariously big with a very loose knit, because the felting will tighten it up.  Inspect your project for stray hairs or threads, because they will get felted into the project and you won’t be able to remove them later.

Hats in the basin with a dash of soap and about an inch of very hot water
To start, you need a kettle of boiling water and an ice bath close by.  I start with very little water in the ice bath.  The shocking change in temperature plays a big role in the felting, along with the agitation.  I wear very large housework gloves.  The super large baggy size insulates your hands from the heat.

ice bath

Start with very little hot tap water in your basin and a dash of laundry soap.  You should wash the hats of similar colors only, because the heat and multiple washings may cause the dye to leach off a bit, particularly reds, blues and the dreaded black.

Back to the basin and add more hot water
Put your hats in and get them good and wet.  Pour the hot water from the kettle right on the hats and start scrubbing.  After about five minutes or so you can switch to the cold water.  Give them a good swish and scrub squeeze out the excess and them get them cold again several times.  Then squeeze the excess and back to the hot they go.  Don’t be afraid to pour hot water right on the hats that shocking change of temperature is what we are looking for.  Also, you will probably use all of your first kettle and have to put on a second kettle of boiling water to finish the process.  I let the fibers get a good soak and them squeeze them out in my fist without twisting or wringing to disturb the shaping process.  Then I let them soak up the water again.  I also scrub my two hands together to agitate the fibers.  I repeat this process over and over about 5 to 10 minutes in the hot water and slightly less in the cold.  After a half hour you will begin to see the felting happening.  Now you can start shaping and checking for size, while you keep up all of your previous techniques to keep the felting continuing.  This ability to shape it while felting is the big motivator to hand felting.  Also, you don’t get any creases or fold lines by hand felting.

You can see how much tighter the weave is now.
Another ice bath and almost done!
When you have reached your desired size, rinse your project well in cool water.  Now shape carefully before allowing it to dry thoroughly.  This is your chance to really tweak the piece into your desired shape.  Hint: notice that the hat fits the top of a pint glass almost perfectly for the size of Blythe’s head.  It’s great to use as a drying rack.

Adjusting the curve of the brim
Well, obviously, hand felting is a labor of love and uses a lot of elbow grease.  If you don’t want to work so hard, you can do it in a machine.  You can set your machine to a small load and add just a dash of laundry soap.  Put your hat in a zipper pillow case-- this protects the hat from being too twisted out of shape and, importantly, protects your washer from all the fuzz that will leach off the hat and then gumming up the mechanism in the washer.  I’ve heard horror stories of washers destroyed by felting.  Also, add an old pair of stiff jeans to the load to help the agitation.  You will have to check it frequently.  It will take a similar amount of time but with less scrubbing on your part.  Once your hat is the right size, rinse it out gently in the sink and shape it carefully by hand.  You can often work out any folds by pulling and pushing into shape.

Classic roll up drying
Cat ear hat drying

Now your hat is ready to embellish!  Have fun felting!